The Jewish holiday Tu B’Shvat (also known as Jewish Arbor Day, Israeli Arbor Day or the “New Year” for trees) falls on January 16 this year, the 15th day of the month of Shvat. Originally designed as a biblical way to calculate the start of the agricultural calendar, the holiday has grown into a general day of ecological celebration in Israel, spearheaded by the non-profit Jewish National Fund (JNF).
In past years, the JNF has led numerous events to celebrate the holiday, such as the 2011 tree planting ceremony atop the Hiriya former waste dump attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This year, the greening of Israel continues with a full slate of events including a moonlight hike and gala reception in Ilanot Forest in the Sharon, “plant parties” hosted by JNF nurseries in Gilat, Eshtaol and Golani, bus trips and a forest festival at Tel Aviv Seaport.
This year’s celebrations will continue to work towards JNF’s over 100-year-old mission of uniting the land and the people of Israel, JNF CEO Russell F. Robinson told Jspace News.
“For generations, planting a tree in Israel has symbolized a lasting partnership with the land and people of Israel,” Robinson said. “From school-age children who plant trees on Tu B’Shvat to planting trees as a lasting legacy to someone you love or to recognize one of life’s milestones, trees say you care and forge an immutable bond between the soil and the soul.”
Indeed, since its founding in 1901, JNF has become an international environmental force, planting 250 million trees, building over 210 reservoirs and dams, developing over 250,000 acres of land, creating more than 1,000 parks, providing the infrastructure for over 1,000 communities, according to its website.
“Planting a tree helps build a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people,” Robinson noted. “It is a link in a thousands-year-old chain. It is your voice in Israel.”
Ultimately, no matter how you celebrate Tu B’Shvat–by planting a tree, taking a long hike or simply enjoying dried fruits and nuts–the holiday is an opportunity for reflection, and for gratitude.
“For Jews the world over, this holiday has always been the ‘harbinger of spring’ in the land of their ancestors,” David Geffen writes in the Jerusalem Post. “We are fortunate that we can celebrate this wonderful occasion annually on the soil where it began many centuries ago.”